Intoxicating Chant

Having read Michael's blog, I must confess to having a similar sickening or nauseous feeling when I was singing for the usual Novus Ordo Mass on Saturday.

It has been slightly more than a week since the helter skelter of preparing for my role in the Schola Cantorum, the trepidation of blowing the one chance that "friends and family" had to experience the beautiful Tridentine Rite after a space of thirty years.

I am not sure whether it was the adrenalin of preparing for the huge task of chanting the various propers (call it post production blues) or was it the sense of reverence and mystery in the chant that we rendered. I really missed singing chant at Mass. I wouldn't go so far as to criticise the current repertoire we have for Mass, to the extent that it has no value. I am more of the view that chant and the Mass really were meant to go together. The music at Mass is supposed to lift the minds of the people of God to the things of heaven, to lead them to the vision of this celebration "on the altar of the world".

Current repertoire seems more like a filler for happenings at Mass, like giving the congregation something to do when the priest is preparing the gifts, or for people to sing something when they are done with their thanksgiving after communion.

I read with interest on the
criticisms of hymnals by OCP publication, and I note that my parish will be purchasing the next year's Breaking Bread, if no good reason can be given for other hymnals. Thus lies the tremendous task ahead of justifying the purchase of either GIA, Collegeville or Adoremus hymnals. Can someone help to give a thorough and unbiased account of the best choice of hymnals to purchase for the parish? (the article I read, I suspect, would not sit very well with the liturgical music committee of my parish)

On another front, I would soon be trying to introduce chant into a Saturday morning Mass. A proposal will be made to my parish priest as soon as my Graduale Romanum is delivered. Meanwhile, I must think of which chants to introduce and at what pace.
Hopefully, the more mature crowd which attends that Mass would be more receptive to chant.

As an aside, I have borrowed a copy of a 1936 Liber Usualis from my parish's music room. No one will miss it for now, cos no one really cares. There are two more copies in there. I may just pass it to my priest for safe keeping. Anyone has any tips to preserve a book that is 80 years old with a damaged spine?

Meanwhile, patience and perseverance are called upon to endure the banality of some music that we sing at the mass.


norman lee said...

I have the Collegeville Hymnal. It is mostly traditional hymns, and has a good collection of hymns on the Eucharist - 34 of them! You will find chants in there too. I'm quite impressed with what they have for christmas, certainly not the standard repertoire. There are also settings of the Psalms. I do not know how complete it is as I have not had the opportunity to use it in a parish setting.

I'm not very enthusiastic about the settings (two or three of them) of the Mass ordinary, but Missa De Angelis is provided with Organ accompaniment. There are also some misses - Haugen's Gather Us In being one of them, the other being Amazing Grace (it's Calvinist, for goodness sake). However, on balance, there are many more good hymns than bad hymns. You can browse the list on Amazon.com.

A Scripture Index and a Topical Index is also available, which is a great aid for choosing hymns. There is an imprimatur also, which BB2005 doesn't have. Where possible, hymns are provided in four parts, else just a single melody line.

I don't have the Adoremus Hymnal, but judging from the list of hymns, they are similar in nature but the selection is more limited (250) than the Collegeville (400+). The cost is similar though, so between Adoremus and Collegeville, the latter is better.

There is a hymnal published by a UK publisher called "Laudate". There are 1000 hymns in it. Judging from the list , you will find an equal number of modern and traditional hymns. I have the list and can send it to you. Again I don't know whether it has a scriptural index, and whether it has an imprimatur or not. It has a pew edition consisting of just the text of hymns.

I hope this helps.

nickteo said...

Recently my choir mistress request to use "sanctus" was rejected by my parish priest.

He said that the repetitive (chanting) of the "sanctus" would be against directives of singing "holy" 3 times.

Any comments on that?

And for those churches who are using that would eventually need to revert back to only singing the "holy" 3 times.

I'm quite confused about that.

Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

Nick, I'm not sure what you mean but the liturgical text is clearly "Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth..." which entails a repetition of the word "Sanctus" three times for the thrice-holy Triune God.

Liturgical music cannot and must not deviate from the prescribed text.

There is no musical directive that prevents the chanting of the words more often than the prescribed text (ie you can sing 'Sanctus' over and over again, if the artistic style of the music (eg polyphony) so requires. Repetition is not prohibited.

What is prohibited is any alteration of the words: so many modern settings which alter the liturgical text in English are technically illicit.

I hope this clarifies the matter. If your PP still objects, request that he presents the relevant texts from the Church in support of his views!

Br Lawrence, O.P. said...


With regards to hymnals, look into the "London Oratory Hymnal"... Or better yet, for the choir, invest in the "New English Hymnal" which is superlative. The words are meaningful and theologically accurate, the tunes reverent and fitting and there are many Office Hymns, Sequences etc from the Roman Breviary and Missal translated into beautiful English verse.

I think a good parish hymnal should have simple chant settings. "Laudate" certainly has that and some good modern settings of the Mass texts.

As an aside, we should note that in the Liturgy of the Mass, "hymns are alien to the Roman rite". In the Roman tradition, hymns have always been reserved for the Office. Hymn singing at Mass is a Protestant innovation... used by Luther and Calvin initially for propaganda purposes!

norman lee said...

If I may add a word of caution - the purchase of a hymnal requires substantial one-time investment (just think of how many copies you need for the pews). Matters are complicated when you have more than one choir focussing on different repertoire. This should be a parish-level effort, not just a Liturgical Committee thing. It is worth the effort to get a few copies of the hymnals under consideration to try out.

There are also copyright issues - most traditional hymns (and all chants!) are in public domain, you will have no worries making copies of them for distribution. As a compromise between Latin Chant and vernacular, it seems to me that By Flowing Waters (BFW) is a compromise. No issues with copyright for BFW also.

My parish ditched its hymnals some time ago, and used slides projected on screen instead. I found the resulting logistics a pain - someone had to bring a laptop, and type in all the lyrics, week after week. A laptop is not something that everyone has, lor... Nevertheless, this was a compromise solution - each choir followed its own repertoire and was not constrained by the hymnal.

Another hymnal for consideration here - looks promising. http://www.stboniface.org/hymnal/

ChrisOw said...

First, a website recommendation. St Cecilia Schola Cantorum website.


What's so good about it.

1. The 1974 Jubilate Deo chants of Paul VI available in PDF and other formats for free download.

2. Links to many useful, public domain, free to download score for both chant and polyphony.

3. Links to articles of note on Sacred Music.

4. Blog style updates, with the latest news dated 11 Aug 2005.

5. A useful guide to introducing Sacred Music to the parish found here

You might as well go see for yourself.

peregrinator said...

I have a copy of the St Michael's Hymnal that Norman referenced to on the St Boniface Church's website. It tries to have a good mix of about 419 traditional and contemporary hymns (such as Hass' You Are Mine and Haugen's Eye Has Not Seen). I think it has a good selection for a small parish choir, though it is a little limited, and it reflects an American tradition of hymnody.

Its main strengths I think are: (i) a good selection of "favorite" Latin hymns that comes with translation (such as Ubi Caritas, Ave Maris Stella, Ave Maria, Te Deum etc), (ii) the Order of Mass (with chant music in neumes notation) in English and Latin on facing pages. It has a poor index however that is not overly useful, and although it includes many popular Taize refrains, the verses are not included. So a choir wishing to sing the chant with verse would need other books, but the assembly would be fine.

By the way, does anyone know if there're any parishes in Singapore that has Mass in the Latin language according to the post-Vatican II Missal?

gmadams said...

For those interested in the St. Michael Hymnal, it actually has its own website:

There's a choir edition coming out soon, though I'm not sure of the date. It has all the Taize verses.